While no one taking marriage vows expects their marriage to end in divorce, sadly, a significant number of walks down the aisle end at divorce court later. When closing one chapter of your life and opening a new one, it’s common to want a fresh start. For many newly divorced individuals, that fresh start includes moving on from a spouse’s last name and reclaiming the name they had before their marriage.

Once you’ve gotten your final divorce decree, it serves as the proof you need to take back your previous last name. Most divorcing spouses use one of two ways to change back to their maiden name or previous last name after divorce.

Adding the Change to Your Divorce Decree

The simplest way to change your legal last name after divorce is to include the name change as part of your divorce decree. Often a divorce lawyer in Los Angeles will ask you if you plan to return to your previous last name so they can include it on your divorce judgment form. Then, when your final decree comes through, the judge will have signed the order officially changing your last name. You’ll need to keep copies of this order to submit to the DMV to change the name on your driver’s license. You must also change your name on your passport and social security card. Once this is done, you’re back to your previous name and ready for a fresh start.

If the divorce comes through without the name change order, you can promptly address the matter by asking the court for a modification to include a name change order.

Submit an Application for a Name Change to Your Divorce Court Judge

If you decide to change your name at any point after your divorce decree is already finalized, it isn’t too late even if it’s months or years later. Some divorced spouses retain their spouse’s name while their children are young in order to keep a family name during their school years and then decide to change it later.

At any time after a divorce, you can submit a name-change request form to the judge who issued your divorce decree. Be ready to give the clerk your stamped petition, case number, and the date of your judgment filing. You can find the form online, ask your divorce attorney, or get one from the clerk of court in your jurisdiction. In most cases, the court takes 2 to 4 weeks to process the name change request and then notifies you when it’s complete so you can begin the process of changing your name on other important identification documents.

What Do I Need to Do Once My Name Changes After a Divorce in California?

Once your name change is official, it’s time to update your name on important identifying documents including:

  • California driver’s license
  • Social Security card
  • Passport
  • Bank and investment accounts
  • At your place of employment

Just as you did when you changed your name after marriage, you must take the necessary steps to change your name back on these important documents as soon as possible. You’ll need the following:

  • Proof of your name change, such as your divorce decree
  • Proof of identity such as your current driver’s license or passport
  • Proof of citizenship such as your birth certificate or passport
  • Your original social security card

Your name will be changed on your social security card and you’ll receive a new one in the mail, but your social security number does not change. Once you’ve completed the above steps your name change is official in every way.